The Mandalorian Adds Another Piece Of The Star Wars Rebels Puzzle

There will be spoilers for "Star Wars: The Mandalorian" Chapter 21 – The Pirate

Over the course of its 21 chapters thus far, "The Mandalorian" has referenced "Star Wars Rebels" quite a bit. One of the biggest reveals was the inclusion of Ahsoka Tano in the second season, when Din Djarin traveled to the planet Corvus. There, we saw Ahsoka battle Morgan Elsbeth, looking for the whereabouts of Grand Admiral Thrawn, which was one of the key dangling plot threads at the end of the series finale of "Rebels."

Another major hint was bringing Bo-Katan Kryze and the story of the Darksaber into the show. The tale of the Darksaber featured prominently in "Star Wars Rebels", as did the Mandalorian people and culture, as they sought to free themselves from the yolk of the Empire. Thanks to "The Mandalorian" and "The Book of Boba Fett," we know that Moff Gideon quickly unmade all of the progress that Bo-Katan did to unite the Mandalorian people and free them from the Empire, and it would seem that he's still out there causing trouble. But that's not all.

Earlier this season, we saw purrgils enter the live-action universe, though they were obscured by hyperspace. These were the creatures that carried Grand Admiral Thrawn's entire fleet, with Thrawn and Ezra Bridger aboard one of the ships, out into the unknown regions.

We've also theorized that the attack on Bo-Katan's base this season might have had a higher power than Moff Gideon behind it, with the primary suspect being Thrawn, the chief villain in the later seasons of "Star Wars Rebels." 

Now, newest episode of "The Mandalorian" brought us one more major tie to "Star Wars Rebels" — and possibly the "Ahsoka" show — in the form of a certain Lasat named Garazeb Orellios.

Who is Zeb?

For those who don't know, Garazeb Orellios, or "Zeb" for short, is a Lasat who was first introduced in "Star Wars Rebels." Based on the original Ralph McQuarrie concept designs for Chewbacca, the Lasat were first brought into "Star Wars" via the West End Games "Star Wars" Roleplaying Game in a supplement called "Tatooine Manhunt." Then, they made the leap into the current canon in Dave Filoni's "Star Wars Rebels" in the form of Zeb.

Zeb is the muscle of the team featured in "Rebels." He was part of the Honor Guard on his home planet, and earned a traditional Bo-rifle. But when the Empire committed genocide on his planet, he had no where to turn and joined up with the nascent rebel movements and found himself working with Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus aboard their ship, The Ghost. Zeb was a vital member of the team and served with them through the Battle of Lothal. Where he went next is a bit of a mystery.

In the epilogue of "Star Wars Rebels" we're told that Zeb traveled to Lira San, a second homeworld of his people, but what his job was during the Rebellion and the transition to the New Republic was unknown. Now we have an idea.

In the bar on Adelphi, as Carson Teva gets a message from Greef Karga asking for help, a massive Lasat in a New Republic blue pilot uniform approaches and talks to him about the problems of the current Republic bureaucracy. It's Zeb, voiced by Steve Blum, who originated the role on "Rebels," rendered in flawless, photorealistic 3D.

It seems as though he gets to spend some time working with the Adelphi Rangers during the time of the New Republic, and we've finally caught up with him here.

Heading into Ahsoka?

As we look ahead to the upcoming "Ahsoka" series, it's worth wondering if Zeb is destined to be a part of it. At last year's "Star Wars" Celebration, the footage shown to the audience included shots of Hera Syndulla, Sabine Wren, and their droid Chopper. Unsubstantiated rumors swirl that Thrawn and Ezra have been cast. Why wouldn't Zeb get to join the party?

For one thing, it seems uneconomical to build an entire 3D character as complicated as Zeb for a mere cameo in "The Mandalorian." This show has been exceedingly spartan in its effects budget, leaning on physical creatures for the most part and shying away from many of the complicated all-CG characters George Lucas broke ground with in the prequels. But if the 3D animation model was split across the budget between "The Mandalorian" and "Ahsoka", it makes a lot more sense from a production logistics standpoint. If they built that complicated CG rig for "Ahsoka," and they knew they had it available for "The Mandalorian," why not use it and save some money at the same time?

While we still have no indication that Zeb will be part of Ahsoka, seeing such an expensive cameo on "The Mandalorian" makes it feel all the more likely. That's really the way Dave Filoni and his team have operated from day one in the world of animation, building as many assets as they can from season to season in order to expand the world as they went. That's part of why you saw such an exponential growth in the quality of the animation coming from Lucasfilm: they don't have to keep spending their budget on making new assets, the more assets they have at their disposal. Why wouldn't they apply those cost-saving measures to live-action, especially with Bob Iger enacting cost-cutting measures across all of Disney's holdings?

More Rebels too?

With "The Mandalorian" hinting at many of the unanswered plot threads left by "Star Wars Rebels" and "Ahsoka" shaping up to be a practical sequel series, there's almost no doubt we'll see more references to the show in future "Star Wars" storytelling. What form that comes in is anyone's guess, but I would bet that it's going to be something amazing.

"The Mandalorian" is streaming on Disney+ with new episodes arriving every Wednesday. "Ahsoka" is rumored to start some time in 2023.